The Matobo Hills support a rich biodiversity and form an important catchment for the Shashe-Limpopo river system (one of the two main catchments in Zimbabwe). The Matobo Hills have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as the region has one of the highest concentrations of rock art in Southern Africa dating back at least 13,000 years. The region has to manage a delicate balance between this cultural heritage, the Matobo National Park itself, private wildlife and tourism areas, commercial livestock farms and subsistence agro-pastoralist areas.

The vast majority of people living in the Hills are subsistence agro-pastoralists with a mean household monthly income of US$80, and a high proportion of households are woman-or child-headed, which often indicates high vulnerability and increased poverty.  High poverty levels and unsound environmental practices frequently go hand-in-hand; the Matobo area is therefore a priority location for long-term, community-driven biodiversity management.

All projects carried out by DWT are linked with the Conservation Across Boundaries programme, with the aim to provide locally-relevant solutions based on sound data to achieve the organisation’s mission. The programme has two prongs: firstly, gathering information through research and consultation in order to identify conservation needs (including livelihood enhancement for people) and secondly, implementing appropriate mitigation and conservation measures to ensure long-term ecosystem health and sustainability.

Dambari Wildlife Trust (DWT) is a non-profit conservation and research organisation that has been active since 1997. The Trust was founded with seed money from the Marwell Preservation Trust UK (now Marwell Wildlife) by the then Director of Marwell Zoo, Dr John Knowles. In 1999 Paignton Zoo and the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust also began supporting Dambari Wildlife Trust and these have been enduring partnerships.

The importance of collaboration in conservation work cannot be overstated. DWT is pleased to be able to work with a broad range of organisations nationally, regionally and worldwide.

Conservation Across Boundaries (CAB) is DWT’s flagship programme. It is designed to encourage stakeholders from a variety of backgrounds and with different expertise to work together towards the common goal of a healthy and functional Matobo Hills ecosystem. The programme encourages a holistic approach to identify and address current and future biodiversity and sustainability needs in the Matobo Hills. Boundaries refers to both physical (e.g., land use and land tenure) and disciplinary (e.g., biological and sociological) divides. CAB bridges those divides using multi-stakeholder participation and multi-disciplinary solutions.

This work may be divided into three main themes: Research, Conservation and Outreach.

For example, ecologists may provide advice on how to manage livestock range lands to optimise forage production and reduce impact on surface water, while social scientists assist subsistence communities to implement new approaches.  All of DWT’s projects fit into the Conservation Across Boundaries framework. At DWT we know the importance of developing and educating future generations of local conservationists. Together with our community outreach projects, we are delighted to support school programmes and the tertiary education of young people committed to a career in conservation.